Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Will Miss #189 - the Suica Card system

Japan is still largely a "cash-based" society. That means that the Japanese aren't embracing the idea of debit cards* that withdraw money automatically from their bank accounts. However, Japan is also technologically advanced (and inclined) and companies are always pushing to make life more convenient. They have come up with a system which allows them to have the benefits of the debit system while still being cash-based, and that is the Suica card system. You get a plastic card and purchase credits for the card, then use the card like a debit card. When the money on the card runs out, you can "charge" it by putting it and the amount of cash you want to put on it into a machine. These cards can be used for public transport (buses, trains, subways) and at many shops and convenience stores. You can charge up the cards easily almost anywhere and it takes but seconds to do it.

Personally, I like dealing with this system better than having someone take money directly from my bank account because it gives me a stronger sense of how much money I am spending (and I can't mistakenly overdraw and don't have to pay any bank fees), and I'll miss it.

*Note: I haven't lived in the U.S. for a little over two decades and have never used a debit card, so forgive me if I'm missing something about their functionality.